The Mandy Skirt

Oh Mandy, you came and you gave without taking…

This skirt is named after my sister, Mandy, who bought me the fabric. She didn’t have much choice. Last Christmas I gave her strict instructions to go and pick something out for me from Our Patterned Hand in Bethnal Green.

Don’t you hate big sisters? I’m the eldest sister of three girls, and I feel riddled with guilt that I still boss them around like you wouldn’t believe. Mandy is the middle daughter and, hand on heart, I’ll say this now: can we all give out a bit of love to the middle daughters? They have it HARD. Big sister bossing them about; little sister receiving all the adoration. Who’d be in the middle? (Now, please, please – someone comment and tell me how it rocks to be middle daughter.)

But, if you can forgive my bossiness, I love asking people to buy me fabric. It takes me out of my comfort zone. I’d never have chosen this cotton myself. The print is so delicate, so sweet – I don’t apply either of these adjectives to myself and wouldn’t have bought this fabric. How glad I am that my sister knows me better than I know myself! This was a dream to work with and extremely inspiring.

In case you don’t recognise it, this is a second rendition of my Butterfly Polka Skirt. I wanted to tweak and refine my pattern drafting. Well, what can I say? I adjusted things. Then I adjusted them some more. And more and some more. Jeez, I can’t say I’m sure I improved anything, but I certainly learnt loads.

  • My first rendition had a straight line at the base of the yoke. I realised that very straight lines just don’t sit well with female figures. We need curves! So I adjusted accordingly – during work in progress. This means that the ‘line’ of my yoke is in theory improved. If you ignore the fact that over my hips the base line dips by half an inch. I’m not dwelling on that.
  • I had to take the yoke in quite significantly at the waist – acres of excess fabric. This ended up being a happy mistake, because the adjustments revealed that a nipped in waist made this skirt much more flattering.
  • Yokes are unforgiving! You can’t really fudge a yoke – the fit is either spot on or it’s not. I remain determined to tweak further.
  • My body image issues really get in the way of pattern drafting and fitting. I live in morbid horror of making something too small, so I add generous ease that then needs to be nipped in and nipped in and nipped in. Rip out an invisible zip three times? I’d prefer not to do that again.


Generally, I took a lot more care and effort over this make. The cream cotton needed lining, unless I wanted the world to see what I’d had for lunch. The yoke was faced with fashion fabric and the skirt was lined with cream satin.

I loved worked with the cream satin lining. First time ever working with this fabric, and it was a real insight into why people become seduced into making wedding dresses. There’s something about the combination: purity of colour, yet sensuous to the touch. Just gorgeous.

I added a false plackett on the skirt front. I’d planned to add buttons, but in the end that felt … wrong. Mainly because the first button placement would have hovered above my groin!

There was quite a lot of hand stitching involved in this make. I took the skirt outside and sat in the back garden and felt totally in touch with nature. As long as I ignored the cigarette smoke from the nearby outside market, the kids screaming on apartment balconies, the neighbour trimming his hedge … I felt totally in touch with nature! (Yeah, I’ll admit. Inner city London living is not always the best.)

Finally, can I just mention a technique for inserting a hook and eye? The clue’s in the verb – insert. I noticed this when gazing at Prada dresses in Las Vegas this summer. I’ve always just plonked a hook and eye on the inside of a finished make. Turns out, it can be far more sophisticated than that, if you sew the hook or eye between layers…

This whole process was a real learning curve for me! I still need to learn how to conquer those random threads that cling to a finished make, though…

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51 Responses to The Mandy Skirt

  1. Emma says:

    Oh. Instant. Skirt. Envy.

    (Also shoe envy)

  2. Elizabth says:

    Love the new skirt. The fabric is delightful. yeah for fabric presents! Great idea about the hook and eye. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Brenda says:

    Oh. my. gosh. I hate the way my hooks and eyes look. They are always cattywumpus! (don’t know how to spell that). I the look of inserting them! tutorial please!!

    • I’ll see if I can do a tutorial. But it’s really not that complex – just insert and sew between layers before sewing those layers down. Good luck!

      • Molly says:

        I’d like to see a tutorial too! I’m most curious about them. Do they gape much? It might be just the solution I am looking for, I need to make a contrast sash that ends at the zipper and I don’t really want to overlap the edges and it will be reversible so I can’t sew it in.

        I love the print, not sure I can concur on working with satin but then I usually get lumped with the nasty cheap stuff at work, quality really does make a difference with satin (and I am shocked at the poor quality a lot of places stock it in – and often charging the same price as better quality satins! Bridal and Duchess satins are lovely but I have too nervous a disposition to work with such expensive fabrics!).

        I am second eldest of four girls (my poor dad). Because my older sister is 10 years older I got treated like the eldest child. The “middle” (actually third) sister was a nightmare growing up, she was definitely the loudest, most demanding. She was constantly bullying our youngest sister until she was big enough to try taking me on – she did it once and never tried again. So I ended up as the peace-maker or the one who waded into the middle of fights to rescue baby sis. Baby sis milked her vulnerable position for all it was worth and because they were slightly closer in age, when they weren’t fighting they’d gang up on me! I remain very close to my youngest sister, not really the other two, mostly a personality thing, you really wouldn’t know I was related to the other two we are so dissimilar!

    • Okay, I’ll definitely look into a tutorial! Molly, on the topic of sisters, I take it your position is … it’s not that complicated!!! I hear ya, girlfriend.

      • Molly says:

        Haha, I was always bottom of the pile, what can I say. But it was middle sis who was the bossy one in our household until baby sis became a teenager and joined in . (She still bosses every about AND gets what she wants because we’re still programmed to “baby sibling spoil” mode). My older sister and I are shrinking violets compared to those two! It may go someway to explaining why I’m one of the most laid-back, easy going people I know… there’s a theory for – bossing people about instils them with an easy-going nature and therefore is a benefit!

  4. Aw what pretty fabric, I love the fact that you only notice the pale blue flowers up close. Good work with the revised drafting and (shudder) hook and eye insertion. The whole outfit is lovely but WHERE did you get those gorgeous shoes??!! I’ll warn you now – as soon as you tell me I’ll be buying a pair… x
    ps. Interesting re the dynamics of sisters, I haven’t got any but I’m always fascinated to read about them! x

    • Jane, I can’t believe you haven’t guessed. CLARKS!!!! Get down there (or online) and buy some. The heel is ever so slightly taller than I’d normally wear, but I’m strapped in and there’s a solid heel, plus cushioned soles. What more can a girl ask for? Oh god, the dynamics of sisters. I could write a book! Yes, the fabric is so subtle. Not like me!

  5. Lizz says:

    Just lovely! I love all the construction details. Makes me wish I wasn’t working today. I’d sit on my porch with my hand stitching and try to drown out the neihbor’s construction noise!

  6. gingermakes says:

    Cuuuuuuuuuute! Love this skirt paired with the bright orange top!

  7. Kerry says:

    Why have I never thought of doing that with a hook and eye?! Genius! Thank you 🙂

    What a sweet skirt, I love it paired with that top too.

  8. shivani says:

    you look so pretty – great outfit. This skirt is just gorgeous! I think maybe my fav of your makes – the style is v similar to one of my all time favourite skirts which completely fell apart last summer, after about 10 years’ good service. I’ll be studying this one closely to see if I can draft myself something similar.

    I’m the eldest of three sisters too (though increasingly I’m the one being bossed about!)

  9. Sam says:

    That is such pretty fabric. I too would never have seen it and chosen it for myself, but I’d be more than happy if someone had chosen it for me. The skirt is gorgeous, and I love the enclosed hook and eye, I must try that.

    I am an oldest sister, but in my case, it’s my younger sister that bosses me about! Always has, and I suspect, always will!!!

  10. prttynpnk says:

    Too sweet and cute. I love what she picked out for you.

  11. MrsC says:

    I love the fresh colours too, Remember these skirts were the shiz when we were young? They are such a great shape.
    Sorry hon but I am a middle sister (older bro, younger sis) and it sucks as much as you say. I do recall some hilarious gags in the otherwise awful Brady Bunch Movie about the middle sister and her crises. The fact I cannot remember her name just proves it really! 😉

  12. Sewingmrsc says:

    Love the personalised label, what a great idea!

  13. Graca says:

    Sorry, I can not tell you how it “rocks to be middle daughter” it would be pure fiction if not an outright lie. I’m a middle daughter from a family with three boys. It sucked and I really don’t see it ever improving. Wine at family gatherings helps or better yet not attending. But I can tell you those yellow shoes are to die for and they are lovely with that skirt. A very nice make.

  14. Alex says:

    So pretty and looks great one you! And as an older sister, we’re not bossy, we are just always in charge 🙂

  15. What a lovely, summery skirt. Another enduringly flattering yoke shape is the inverted V, though you need to be very careful about precision – and clearly, you would be. It can be as deep or shallow as you like and of course you need to give a bit of thought to any gathering over the hips.

    As to being a middle sister? Dunno. I am one and it’s probably true that my elder sister is the one who organises us all, and my younger sister certainly did have some opportunities that weren’t available in earlier tears; but, no, though I wouldn’t necessarily say it rocks I couldn’t honestly say it sucks. I know there are things I do where I can run rings around either of my sisters to this day; and they likewise are good at things I couldn’t do well – perhaps at all! – to save my life. I have to say we get on well. No, that wasn’t always the case. After all, we were teenagers once, you know!

  16. Liara says:

    What a beautiful skirt! I am envious. Sorry I can’t tell you being a middle child rocks. You pretty much summed it up. Growing up my older sister was bossy beyond belief (my brother and I used to lock ourselves in my bedroom to get away from her) and baby brother was definitely the favorite.

  17. Sherry says:

    This looks lovely on you – so summery, and I can just picture you in your back garden doing all the hand finishing! I really like your colour combo (and those shoes) too!

  18. Velosewer says:

    As the youngest of two sisters, I would have loved to have a middle sister. She would have been my go-to person.
    PS, Your skirt is really pretty.

  19. makeitgiveit says:

    Love the skirt and I think it is a very flattering fit on you. I am a middle sister and I love it. True you are never first or last to experience things (except I had kids first so I guess that is something). I think, especially during childhood you get to be closer in age to both so you have more special experiences to share. Plus you have someone’s mistakes to go first and someone to give advice to….

  20. Lala Lisa says:

    Karen, this is a fantastic outfit! I think you should adopt this style more often, plain colours make your figure come out much better than polka dots and heavily patterned stuff. To my opinion anyway 🙂 The skirt looks great, very well made! I sometimes have a hard time finishing things properly, but it gives so much more satisfaction!

  21. Loving the skirt, Karen – your sister has good taste. Also LOVE the yellow shoes – you’ll find now that you wear them loads, because yellow goes with everything! I’m also the eldest of three sisters (and there’s a brother in there too) and your desription of your younger sister is very much like my younger sister Colleen. She is a darling, but often fades into the background as me and my very bubbly and confident baby sister dominate. In the past few years I’ve been really aware of it and have been making an effort not to be so bossy…. but it IS an effort!

  22. Roobeedoo says:

    I don’t think I would want someone close to me to buy me fabric in case I absolutely hated it! I like how you have cut the sweetness with the sharp orange top and yellow (yellow!?!) shoes. Clarks you say….?!
    I can’t comment on sisters: there’s only me in this family.

  23. poppykettle says:

    puurty. You can insert a hook and eye? I simply must get in on that action – love the concept.

  24. Nikki says:

    Great skirt and thanks to your tip I will be less reluctant to use hooks and eyes when neccessary. My mum regularly goes to America on holiday and last year she bought me back 3 yards of red cotton with a small white floral print, she was unsure if I would like it – I love it!!. She knows red is my favourite colour and I don’t do orange/tomato red, it has to be blue based shades of red, which it is. I have found it almost impossible to get blue based shades of red here, so to say I was a little happy with the fabric was an understatement, mum is under orders to buy more on her next trip!!
    I am the oldest of 4 girls, I am not a bossy older sister, but my youngest sister definitely ‘played’ on being the youngest as a child. As for the middle 2, mum said sister 2 hated sister 3 for usurping her position as the youngest ( there is a 4 year gap between these 2). As adults we all get on really well.

  25. Karen S says:

    I’m the eldest of 3 sisters (my poor brother-bossed around by all 3 of us!) and also named Karen to boot! Now that we’re adults I can’t say I’m bossy to them, but boy was I when we were kids! I was always in charge and when we played ‘school’ I was always the teacher.

    The skirt is very cute. I haven’t made one with a shaped yoke but want to try it. I’m hoping the style works for a less than ideal body-mine has more ‘padding’ than I’d like. The shoes are really cute too. Love the color.

  26. liza jane says:

    Very nice! And your shoes are seriously awesome.

    I am the baby and the only girl in my family so I can’t really comment. I was spoiled rotten.

  27. Marie says:

    This is such a lovely make Karen, your sister has sweet taste! Your styling is super cool as well, all those colours look so fresh and edgy together!

  28. Sarah says:

    I recc the novel The Weird Sisters for a quirky and insightful look into 3 sisters.

  29. LinB says:

    Oh, now you are a convert to the waist yoke! It is very flattering on many women.You can insert a hook or an eye between layers even after you’ve closed up the seam. Just cut a tiny slit in the top layer ON THE BIAS so it won’t ravel, then slip the ends of the notion into the hole, between the layers of fabric. Sew the hook or the eye through the top layer of fabric only — you can cover over the tiny hole you nipped with the stitches you take. Even if you attach them atop everything, you can work either buttonhole stitch or blanket stitch around the whole hook or eye, in thread to match your fabric, for a couture finish (usually more trouble than it is worth, to me). You can paint the metal with fingernail polish — be sure to let it dry before you sew with them! Thus endeth the lesson.

  30. Helen Made says:

    Great skirt – love the fabric, so pretty. It’d be really interesting to see a tutorial on inserting a hook and eye into a garment!

  31. love it – that shape really flatters your figure. yokes don’t suit me – something about the line across my widest part?

    i also hear you on the bosy image thing. i am really having to force myself not to sew a size up “just in case” as i have a horror of cutting it all out and it being too small. losing weight has made that a bit more difficult but i am forcing myself to get over it!

  32. LLADYBIRD says:

    Haha I’m a middle sister 🙂 Well, the younger 2 are brothers, but I have a big sister! I definitely was not a fan of it as a kid – my big sister demanded ALL the attention & whatever was left went to my baby brother… my other brother & I just kind of faded into the background a lot. Which is fine, because neither of us really had the personality that required being the center of attention (even though I did have neon blue hair throughout high school). I love my siblings, though, and I relish the fact that I get to pass all my hand-me-downs to my now college-age baby brother:) Ha!

    I love sewing in hooks & eyes 🙂 Hahahaha I might be the only one, though! I usually sew mine in with a blanket stitch – it looks nice and keeps everything secure. But I am super interested in your between the layers technique. I need to try that! Also, I really really love your yellow mary janes.

  33. Sarah says:

    I am totally going to steal the sewing hook and eyes between layers technique, I don’t like how messy they look either! My sister was the middle child and she moaned so much about being left out that she actually got more attention than the rest of us! (Though she wouldn’t agree)

  34. Debbie says:

    I am also the eldest of three sisters and I love my position in the family!! Even as old as we are now, when we get together, even for a chat on Skype, those middle and youngest traits come out (in my opinion!!). Now I need to get them to buy me fabric!!!

    I love the skirt and am going to try the hook and eye technique soon.

  35. Bold Sewist says:

    Very cute skirt – that orange top really jazzes it up and the colour is GREAT on you. Oh to be able to wear orange!

  36. Nikki says:

    This fabric is really lovely. I love skirts this shape and have a basque from another pattern which works like a dream, I shorten it to whatever length I like, then gather or pleat the skirt on. The skirt is always cut straight, no curves on that!

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  38. michelle says:

    Oh Karen! Oh Mandy! What a delightful combination you have there – the perfect fabric with the perfect pattern!

    And can I just say … totally in love with your shoes. Adorbs!

  39. Adrienne says:

    Oh I love this skirt! I want one, I want one! I love that the gathering is split in on each side. So pretty. 🙂

  40. Wenna says:

    I’m the middle girl of three… and it rocks, I’ve watched both my sisters get married and have kids, while I party on and enjoy the single life… I appreciate my parents more the older I get and realised a long time a go that I a completely surrounded by the love of my sisters and parents… What could be better!!!

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  42. Nerissa says:

    I’m commenting almost a year after this post went up but this is a very important topic to me. I am the middle of five children (boy, girl, me, girl, boy) and I must say it was the most perfect timing imaginable on my part. There were two older siblings to take on responsibility so I enjoyed a life of ease. But when something good came up I was somehow lumped in with the older kids and allowed to join in. All of the fun but none of the toil. And I know, despite my parents protestations, I was the favorite. But maybe I just live a charmed life and any birth order would have been prefect to me.

  43. Sarah says:

    I’m an only child, but I’d love to know where you got the cute “made by me” label 🙂

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